Council chiefs trialling robot lawnmowers in Exmouth and Honiton say it’s too soon to judge whether the tech will see jobs cut along with the grass.
A fleet of the self-operating machines could be rolled out across East Devon if their use in both towns until the autumn is deemed a success.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) says the artificial-intelligence-boasting items are freeing up its gardeners to work on ‘more skilled’ horticultural tasks.
Trials at All Hallows, in Honiton, and Manor Gardens and Withycombe Pitches, in Exmouth, are helping the authority assess the robots’ potential to trim spending.
Seasonal temp workers could face the chop as a result of the cutting-edge technology.
An EDDC spokeswoman told East Devon News.co.uk today: “The trials are going well and allowing us to learn how these robots might be used in the future.
“The trial is running until the autumn, when we intend to assess the performance of the robots. Currently, we are collating issues logs for the machines.
“It is too early to say if the efficiencies claimed by the manufacturer will lead to staff reductions.
“If they do, we would reduce the use of seasonal agency employees to make any savings.
“So far, we have found that the robots in two of the sites are freeing up time for existing staff to work on more skilled horticultural tasks.”
Manufacturers claim the mowers can reduce operating costs by between 15-30 per cent – a figure which includes savings made through staff reductions.
John Golding, EDDC’s strategic lead for housing, health and environment, said: “We are carefully assessing cutting-edge technology to maintain our green spaces to analyse the potential for this to reduce maintenance costs and improve quality.
“Where we aim to deliver the services our council tax payers expect despite huge reductions in grants, we are always striving to continuously improve what we do for the benefit of East Devon residents and visitors. This long-term robotic mower trial is an exciting and interesting example of this.
“This will free up our permanent staff to work on more highly-skilled tasks in our parks and gardens, as well as reducing our carbon footprint, as the machines produce up to 90 per cent less CO2 emissions than standard petrol mowers and are much quieter.”
The mow-bots are said to improve the quality of the grass that is being cut and can help reduce herbicide and fertiliser use. EDDC says it is particularly interested to test this at its sports pitch locations.
All of the robots feature sophisticated GPS technology tracking their location and alarms that are triggered if they are moved.
They also boast safety features which make them turn in a different direction if they encounter an object or obstruction – with emergency stop buttons on the top.
The robot lawnmowers are being used at times of low public access, or at sports pitch locations which are gated to ‘minimise interactions’.
EDDC has asked members of the public not to climb on, or pick up, the lawnmowers.
Read more Exmouth news here.
Read more Honiton news here.